DealZone

M & A wrap: Citi scores big with EMI deals

The music industry may have a bit of life left in it after all. At least that’s the impression one is left with this week after Citigroup scored a better-than-expected $4.1 billion from two deals that mark the end of a months-long auction to sell off the parts of 114-year-old British music company EMI Group.

Vivendi’s Universal Music Group and Sony won the auction for EMI’s recorded music and music publishing operations, trumping bids by archrivals Warner Music Group and BMG Music Publishing at the 11th hour, reports Peter Lauria, editor-in-charge of Technology, Media and Telecommunications at Reuters. Universal plans to buy EMI’s recorded-music unit for $1.9 billion, according to a source involved in the process, snagging the rights to music by artists such as Coldplay, the Beatles and Katy Perry in the deal.  A consortia led by Sony is expected to buy EMI’s publishing operation for $2.2 billion.

MF Global’s liquidators are struggling to sell the Asian business as one concern because of problems unwinding trading positions, so they may now sell the various country units separately, report Reuters correspondents Rachel Armstrong and Bruce Hextall. The provisional liquidators for the business in Hong Kong said on Friday there had been a number of encouraging bids for the regional business as a whole but the exercise has proved increasingly complex and the focus is now on selling off the various Asian business units individually.

U.S. coal giant Peabody Energy extended its $5 billion bid for Australia’s Macarthur Coal by two weeks after failing to reach the 90 percent threshold for acceptances by its Friday deadline, reports Sydney-based correspondent Lincoln Feast. Peabody’s acquisition of Macarthur will give it control of the world’s top producer of pulverized coal, just at a time when demand for steel-making materials holds up in Australia’s key coal market, China.

Companies in Greater China are lining up to sell shares in initial public offerings in coming months, braving jittery markets with $11.2 billion in deals, reports Hong Kong-based Elzio Barreto. Issuers are betting the steep rebound in Hong Kong and Chinese markets in the past month might signal renewed appetite for offerings that would provide funding for expansion and takeovers.

from MediaFile:

Comcast, NBC Universal pledge support for local news

Comcast has finally unveiled its formal announcement that it plans to take control of NBC Universal from General Electric. Public interest groups and various U.S. government types have been tutting and clucking over whether this media mega-deal would be against the national interest, and few doubt that Congress and the administration will want to review this plan in loving detail.

To that extent, Comcast released a memo on Thursday outlining its public commitments. There are a bunch in here, but this old-school journalist wants to point out above all else that the company said it's committed to preserving and enriching "the output of local news, local public affairs and other public interest programming on NBC O&O ("owned and operated") stations."

That's a mighty strong commitment to make. Let's hope that it doesn't do what many radio and TV stations have done for years to satisfy their government-mandated public interest requirements and stick all that stuff on the air at 5 a.m. Sunday morning. Also, how much more money will they provide?

DirecTV adds to media merger excitement

With media titans GE and Vivendi still negotiating a deal to bring cable operator Comcast into a mega-media joint venture, a management move at DirecTV is giving dealwatchers a fresh programming alternative.

Yinka Adegoke and Sinead Carew report the appointment of PepsiCo veteran Michael White (pictured below), who has no experience in pay TV, as DirecTV CEO is being read as a sign the company’s parent, Liberty Media, just wants a baby-sitter until its sells the operation in the next couple of years.

Telecom leaders Verizon and AT&T approached Liberty earlier this year, they report. Both have cross-marketing deals with DirecTV and would leapfrog the rest of the market with the addition of DirecTV’s subscriber base. But fears of insurmountable regulatory resistance put those talks on ice.

Comcast, GE and Kraft await Europe’s pleasure

The defining deals of the week, Kraft’s now officially hostile bid for Cadbury and a deal to sell a majority stake in NBC Universal to Comcast, hinge on decisions of Europe Inc, so they could well drag on many more weeks.

This morning, Kraft formally bid for Cadbury with the same offer mooted two months ago, before today’s put-up-or-shut-up deadline. Cadbury has already said no to these terms, and can be expected to do so again. But the sinking expectations that Kraft might pay more, and the lack of any other buyers coming forward, don’t help to make the case for a successful hold out by Cadbury executives.

Over the weekend we learned that GE and Comcast agreed on a valuation of around $30 billion for a joint venture between NBC Universal and Comcast, ironing out what has been a key obstacle in talks so far. But French media conglomerate Vivendi, which owns 20 percent of NBC Universal, has not yet agreed to a deal, a source said.

Did he say IPO?

Speaking in New Delhi, General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt said “Discussions are ongoing whether it is an IPO or another partnership,” in response to a question on whether GE was talking to Comcast to sell a stake in the fourth-placed TV network and movie studio. With Vivendi possibly just a couple weeks away from unloading its 20 percent stake in the NBC venture, and all the talk this week about Comcast gathering coins to add the content trove to its cable mix, it might seem as if Immelt is trying to conjure something like a rabbit from a hat – or a peacock from a beret.

GE and Comcast are discussing a deal under which the largest U.S. cable firm would take control of 51 percent of NBC Universal with GE, which has the right of first refusal to pick up Vivendi’s stake if the French company exercises its annual option to sell, taking the rest. “The capital markets have definitely improved,” Immelt said. There is reason to see stability and some optimism for the future,” he said.

Set aside for a moment that the sickly advertising market that NBC already faces. The market for IPOs is picking up nicely right now, but is still in an early stage of recovery, making do with a ragtag bunch of real estate investment trusts and Chinese new-market plays. What effect do you think a big media play splashing into that pool would have on investor demand for new issues?

The bulls and bears on equity rallies and M&A

Rising stock markets and talk of improving economic confidence have prompted a barrage of analyst notes on how the M&A market is picking up.  Check out what I wrote on the subject earlier Thursday .

Here’s a few quick points from others:

Citigroup said that as global economic indicators stabilize, financing markets reopen and equity markets recover, hostile takeovers may be poised for a sharp resurgence. “Indeed, many recent high profile M&A transactions have been unsolicited or hostile in nature,” a note said.

My colleague Quentin Webb talked about mergers and aggravation, or hostile bids,  in July.

It’s all a bit Zainy

The rumours just won’t go away.

Rumour number one: the Kuwaiti-backed Zain telecommunications group has effectively put its African operations up for sale with a reported price tag of US$12 billion.

Rumour number two: Zain is in talks with France’s Vivendi about doing a deal.

Zain has even posted on its website some of those news reports stating that its African business is under the hammer, effectively advertising a sale.

“I think we will know [about it] very quickly,” one source close to the parties said.